Dr Chee was subsequently found guilty and fined $2500.This also bars him for running for elections for five years. Refusing to pay the fine, the politician was jailed for 12 days in default. He is due for release March 7 - after the birth of his first child.
Let me state at the outset that I am not a student of law and as such I seek your guidance, and even indulgence, through the course of making my submissions.
I am aware, however, that there are rules governing the judgement-making process of the courts. These rules as I understand them, are meant to facilitate you in arriving at your decision vis-à-vis the evidence.
I also know that the ultimate aim of the courts is to dispense justice - justice not only as to what is lawful and unlawful, but more fundamentally, what is right and wrong. In other words, justice in the most profound sense.
Through the course of the trial, we have tried to show that this case is not simply one of not obtaining a permit to speak although your honour may well think that it is. Let me humbly attempt to convince you otherwise.
To do so, I need to talk about moral reasoning very briefly. Everyone has his or her own set of beliefs. This set of beliefs may be accepted blindly or it may be accepted only after reflection and critical thought. If we do the former, then we are prone to be led astray by disingenuous arguments. If we do the latter, we ground our beliefs on the truth. The truth - not mere legalities - is what we after in this trial.
If verity is what we are looking for then we must exercise moral reasoning. Moral reasoning is the attempt to arrive at the truth through reasoned argument. It encompasses more than just a straight-jacketed interpretation of rules.
Take, for example, murder. I am sure you will agree that a person who commits murder is a criminal and will have to pay the penalty that society imposes. However, if the victim of this murderer is Adolf Hitler, would reason not dictate a different onclusion in most of us? Instead of being convicted of murder, this man would even be hailed a hero.
Your honour may say that this is a different situation. And so it is. But this is precisely what I am trying to show you. This case before you is a very different situation. Acts of individuals must not be teased out and distilled to a point where its isolation from reality leads one to a blinkered and erroneous conclusion.
You have seen and heard from the evidence that the government has no intention of giving permission for anyone to speak in public places. The police said in 1994 that they "will not allow [speeches by political parties] to be held outdoors" ( September 17, 1994).
The Ministry of Home Affairs repeated in 1999 that "speeches which are political in nature...may only be held indoors..." (Straits Times January 28, 1999).
It is, therefore, manifestly untrue to say that I have not applied for permits to speak in public. It is without any sense of decency and respectability for the prosecution to sit there and charge me for not applying for a permit when it knows full well that one will not be given.
Put aside legal technicalities for a moment and let's apply some common sense here. If you have applied for permits but have been told that it is policy that such permits will not be granted, does it make sense for one to make an application?
As a result of this government policy, our attempts to obtain a permit to speak in public have been repeatedly refused. Those that have been approved are given when they are held in hotels. Even then, they were granted only two or three days before the event itself.
On one occasion, the permit was given only on the very day of the talk itself. We have also been told that we cannot publicise the event before the approval is given. I challenge anyone here today to organise a public event in just a couple of days. We have tried to get the Licensing Officer to give evidence but were denied. We have tried to produce our own records to verify what we say but this was again refused.
Why is this important? As a leader of an opposition party, it is my duty to communicate my party's beliefs and views to as many people as possible and in as an effective manner as I can. I have shown you that our efforts to apply for permits have been refused or delayed to the last minute. How then do you expect us to conduct our political work? It is because of what the ruling party has been doing to the opposition that has led me to this present course of action. I would not have had to resort to speaking in public if the PAP had abided by parliamentary democracy on which this system is supposed to be based, where the ruling party contests with a loyal opposition for the government but never attempting to undermine the spirit of democracy.
The government has stipulated that talks of a political nature are not allowed because they might lead to public disorder. Why then are PAP leaders allowed to give political speeches in public places often to criticise the opposition? The prosecution may cite the Public Entertainment Act which states that speeches made under "auspices of the govermnent" do not need permits. The way that the prosecution is interpreting this law is simply that members of the ruling party may make speeches in public whilst the opposition may not. This is hardly fair. Besides, anyone can see runs that it runs counter to the reasoning that political talks in public places may cause public disorder; whether it is spoken by the government or the opposition is immaterial.
Let me give you a concrete example. In 1994 Mr Ling How Doong, then MP for Bukit Gombak, applied for a permit to speak to his electorate in his own constituency during a National Day Dinner. The police refused to grant it. A few days later, Mr Lim Boon Heng came to the constituency and gave a public talk during which he criticised the SDP and its manifesto Dare To Change, and said that Bukit Gombak was the "battleground" for the next elections. Was this not a talk very political in nature? The fact that he spoke under the "auspices of the government" did not alter the contents of his speech. If one is allowed to speak - and speak disparagingly of one's opponents - then why is his opponents not accorded the same right? Is this not a cardinal principle in a civilised and just society where if one is accused of something, he has the right to a reply? This is not an isolated incident. During the National Day celebrations PAP MPs are out in full force speaking to their constituents whereas opposition MPs are denied of the same.
As far public safety and order is concerned, the prosecution has not been entirely forthright. You have heard ASP Abdul Khalik say that while football matches may also have the potential for mischief and public disorder, and this has frequently proven true, matches are not banned because, according to the him, the police are given advance notice of the event so that personnel can be provided for crowd control. But the police have indicated that they were aware of my talk and they must have known about it because I openly announced the week before. And yet, the police were at Raffles Place during my second talk not to provide a service, as there were hardly any uniformed officers around, but fully equipped with video cameras to film me and my colleague Mr Wong Hong Toy in order to entrap us. This is hardly in keeping with the prescribed code of behaviour of the management of the police force which is, among other things, to enforce law and order in an impartial manner. The situation that I have just described shows the partiality of the police when it comes to matters pertaining to opposition parties. Thus far, I've been talking as if I have had no choice but to commit the offence of speaking without a permit. Far from having violated any regulation, it is my right, guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of Singapore that has been so egregiously transgressed.
I will be the first to say that the freedom is never absolute. You saw on the video, your honour, that not only did I encourage Singaporeans to stand up for their rights during my talk but I also told them that in claiming their rights, they were simultaneously affirming their responsibility to ensure that public order is kept. On both occasions, the crowd appreciated this fact and there was never a hint of disorder. even the police admitted this.
To be able to gather peaceably with my fellow citizens when the nation's security is not under any threat to debate public policy cannot be curtailed by any law. Let's take it from the horse's mouth. "If you believe in democracy," Mr Lee Kuan Yew said years ago when he was in the opposition, "then you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought." This was no bleeding heart liberal from America talking about the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Here was an Asian fighting for liberty against the colonial powers of the West. And he was right. In a democracy that Singapore was at the time trying to become, no law should be passed that supersedes and negates the principles of democratic rule especially if these principles are enshrined in a written constitution like the one we have. Unfortunately after capturing power, the PAP no only did exactly what it had fought the British about, but it added more teeth to all the schemes it had inherited. Today, laws are passed by the ruling party to shore up its power and subjugate the State to its own interests.
Why is the freedom of speech so important? For the very simple fact that as human beings we have the need to communicate. Our brains need stimulation and communication enables us to receive that stimulation. When we are deprived of they stimulation, we are not functioning at the optimum. That is why we punish criminals by sending them to jail and depriving them of their freedom to interact with society.
Freedom of speech gives citizens the right to exercise their biological and psychological needs to exchange views and ideas, needs essential to modern Man. Deprive us of this freedom and you make us lesser beings.
Your honour, up until now I tried to reason with you. Now I want to show you why you are bound to reject the prosecution's case. You are sitting below the crest which represents our nation. The symbol of Singapore, the crescent and five stars, embodies all that we stand for and believe in. One of the stars represents democracy. Democracy is not just an idea, it is a practice and the constitution tells us what is and is not allowed. You act on behalf of this symbol. It is therefore your duty to not only decide how many years a thief should spend in jail, but you also have the onerous task of upholding and protecting democracy in our nation. It is clear that the PAP makes use of the instruments of the state to strengthen and perpetuate its own power. Mr Bala Reddy, in the previous trial, said that I was making a "mockery of the rule of law." I concur with him except for two letters. I am making a mockery of the rule by law, not the rule of law. Singapore is not run by the rule of law, as the prosecutor and the PAP would have us believe, but by rule by law. In the rule of law everyone is treated equally under the law - no one is above it. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, when he was an opposition figure himself, said: "If the Government can prove its case, let us have a public inquiry, let us have evidence laid before some political tribunal and let the allegations be proved." When he became prime minister, he reversed: "It is not the practice, nor will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that I've got to prove everything against them in a court of law." Of course, Mr Lee was referring to the powers under the Internal Security Act which allows him to repeatedly renew detention orders on opposition politicians. Such is the system that exists in Singapore now - a system of intimidation through the rule by law. In the rule by law, the ruling party passes laws that perpetuates is hold on power and expects everyone to obey not the spirit of the law but the letter of the law. This case is a prime example. Democracy cannot survive in such a system. Another star represents justice. Justice must be alive, and for it to be meaningful to society it must protect the interests and rights of the citizen from an authoritarian regime. In this case, justice cannot be arrived at if we refuse to look at the whole picture of the situation. Moral reasoning as I mentioned earlier is crucial. The prosecutor will no doubt say that the only thing that is important is that the Public Entertainment Act states that a permit is needed for public talks and that I did not apply for one. Everything else, he will say, is irrelevant. I'm sure you've heard of the frog-in-a-well adage. The prosecutor not only wants to turn you into a frog and put you in the well, he will try to put blinkers on you to further blot out what is really happening beyond what you see at the top.
As I mentioned, if you listen to the prosecution and rule everything as irrelevant, then you tease out what I have done from reality, distilled it and made it absolutely nonsensical. It takes no legal scholar to see that this is a political game. If it is a political game, then, your honor, judge me not in isolation under the common rules of the legal system. Sometimes all it takes is common sense. Remove common sense from legal sense, and you end up with nonsense.
I am not asking you not to consider the law. Far from it. In fact I am asking you to consider it in its rightful moment, according to the true spirit of justice - justice for all. At the moment it is one law for the PAP and one law for the Opposition.
I have done what I have done and I regret not one moment of it. I am not doing this for personal gain. I have been sacked, sued, fined, imprisoned, deprived of my career, and continue to be harassed when I try to make a living. I do what I do because I believe it is the right thing for my country. I have not harmed anyone nor have I caused any damage to property. I am not only one who respects that law but I am also an enforcer of it as an ASP with the Singapore Police Force. I was promoted just months before I joined the opposition. I have on a few occasions faced danger from criminals and had to draw my revolver to protect myself and my fellow police officers. I gladly do all this without complaint as my duty and service to my nation. But I will not allow the PAP to use the police for its own political ends. It is not police officers that I have a problem with. Most of them are good people, dedicated to the work and profession. I know because I've worked with them. It is the ruling party politicians who use them, use instruments of the State which are supposed to be independent, to perpetuate their power that I vehemently object to.
Anyone, ruling party or not, may not be allowed to remove my rights and the rights of my fellow citizens. Our rights are an essential part of our being and if you remove them, then you might as well remove our right to live. I know that I have done nothing wrong. I am not an accused as Mr Reddy keeps referring to me as; I am a defendant and I am defending what is mine, defending my constitutional rights to freedom of speech guaranteed to me under Article 14 of the Constitution of Singapore. I make it plain - I am not on trial for a crime. I am in a political struggle. What is on trial is the system that the PAP has created. I have just spent a week in prison for standing up for my rights. Prison is one place I do not want to have to step into again. It is demoralising and it brutalises one's spirit. But if I have to spend time in jail to show that I believe that what I'm doing is good for my country, then consider it done.
It may not seem important to some people but I will defend democracy, justice and the Constitution of Singapore with every fibre of my being. You can help me to do the right thing, your honour, by acquitting me. Or you can convict me. May I remind you, however, that if you convict me history will enter its own judgement and if you are acquainted with it, you will see that I have nothing to fear.
I rest my case.